The Overlooked Mental Aspect of Physical Training
Mental warm ups don’t get much thought in our culture. Most people just go in the gym and start training or worse they choose equipment without forethought. Just grabbing whatever’s closest without preplanning. I’ve watched a number of champions train and I’m always struck by how purposeful every step of their session is. From first rep to last rep; there is very little wasted movement because they do everything on purpose.
I think taking time to get ready is critical from a mental standpoint.
I’m like everyone else; I’ve got a billion thoughts bouncing off each other in my brain. It’s Tuesday as I write this and I’ve already dealt with three cars in two different repair shops, a sick wife and setting up an event later this month. I couldn’t train at all Monday between carpooling with my wife and taking on her night time duties with our 1 year old, so I didn’t deadlift until 1am. I got done around 2:30am but I still had to be up and out the door to my acupuncture appointment in the morning. My mind was racing all day. Add to that reviewing blog posts and writing an article for the Garage Gym Journal and my plate is full.
Setting the gym up helps me slowly shut out the outside world
Not that I’m unaware of my kids playing in the driveway or the dogs playing in the next room. I’m just mindful in a different way because I took time for mental preparation. A 2013 article in Scientific American says, ” … sport psychology demonstrates the performance benefits of pre-performance routines, from improving attention and execution to increasing emotional stability and confidence”. So setting up your own pre-workout routine can help you especially if your coach has programmed a hard session for you, you want to PR that day or you’re going to try something in the workout that you’ve never done before.
Plan the Work, Work the Plan
I was scheduled to bench press up to a relatively heavy single; about 90% of my current max. Along with that came some accessory movements for my upper body and for the entire workout I’d be using my body weight, bands, dumbbells, dumbbell power hooks, wooden blocks, the treadmill, my 45lb bar, plates and spring clamp collars. Before I got on the treadmill to warm up, I set up the weight room so I could do my first four exercises without stopping to rest any longer than it took to change the weights on the bar.
- I set up the bench in the power rack
- J hooks positioned so I could unrack without hitting the lip or losing my arch.
- wood blocks in place to make up for my bench being taller than competition height
- Bar loaded to my first warm up weight
- Mat in place for neck bridges.
- Phone set up at the right angle to record neck bridges
Why It Matters
Saving time and efficiency. I set up everything to move seamlessly from station to station. Treadmill to mat for bridging. From bridging, sit right on the bench and do my first warm up set. Saving time is a huge deal if your reason for training at home is that you’re a busy parent training while the kids are down for their nap, before taking Junior to soccer practice or going to Little Suzy’s piano recital. I’ve gone so far as to set the gym up before leaving the house so everything would be ready when I got home. No, I don’t worry about leaving my opening weights on the bar. After working in a public gym for five years where people left bars loaded with all sorts of weight, (yes that was annoying because I had to put their weights away); I have no worries so long as the Rogue bar lives up to what they promise on the website. If that thing can’t handle occasionally being left stationary in J Hooks with 135lbs on it; then I doubt it could handle an entire CrossFit box slamming it down repeatedly during a metcon. But I digress.
If you have issues getting your “me time”
Setting up the gym may benefit you because
- It signals the rest of the family that Mommy or Daddy is about to train which is a great way for the kids to not only see you prioritizing your health. It also them to start learning to respect boundaries and patience. That will help them for the rest of their lives.
- It puts you in the right frame of mind to train. With every piece of equipment that you set out, you’re telling your mind that you’re getting ready to perform. Great athletes have pre game rituals for a reason. Gym set up should be your pre-game ritual.
- It saves time once the session actually gets going so you can use your rest periods to stretch or drink water rather than hunting for the next thing to use.
Setting up the gym takes a little thought on the front end but that’s the point. My process is a methodical one where I have to think through what I have to do, select the tool I’m going to use and put it where I can best use it. That’s one reason that I tend to be slightly disoriented whenever I train anywhere but at home. But it is a benefit of living the garage gym lifestyle.